Twenty one steps,
the waves press.
The dolphins laugh.
This poem is about a person turning twenty one and being legally allowed to drink. The poem examines the supposed freedom the person has.
In terms of form, this poem uses the form Twenty Words.
The poem has a water theme. In the poem, a person walks to the water. The person goes Twenty one steps to get there. This symbolizes the twenty one years the person has journeyed to get to this point.
The poem then asks the question now free? In the poem, the person believes they are free. They are now legally allowed to drink. They are no longer constrained by a prohibition. The poem questions this freedom.
The poem tells the person in the poem to Look. The idea is for the person to open their eyes metaphorically and see reality. The idea is for the person to see what is really going on around them.
The next two lines indicate what the person should look at. They say, the piers, the waves press. First, this continues the water theme. The person is at the end of a pier and the waves are pressing. Second, the lines are a play on the words peer pressure. In this case, the words are represented by piers press.
The idea of these lines is for the person to see the peer pressure around them. Rather than being free to drink or not, the person is in a situation where their peers expect them to drink. In some sense, it has transcended expectation, in that expectation is an action. Their peers simply take it for granted that the person will drink.
The person, while believing they have the freedom of choice, is really in a situation where they are pressured, and expected, to behave in a certain way. Before they were not allowed to drink; now they are expected to.
The next line of the poem says The dolphins laugh. In the poem, the person’s peers appear happy, with their drinking and partying, but underneath problems exist. They are not as happy as they appear. This is similar to a dolphin, which can look like it is smiling, despite its emotions.
The next lines show the reality. Although the dolphins are laughing, they are caught. They are caught by drinking, peer pressure and the effects of both. Though they are smiling, they are like a fish on a Hook and line. They are being reeled in by a culture of expected drinking such that the Fishing poles shook.
The idea of the poem is to examine the idea of freedom. It looks at a situation where a person was prohibited from an action and then that action was allowed. Although the person might have thought they were entering a situation of choice, where they could choose the action or not, they really entered a situation where the action was expected. They went from being restricted from not doing something, to being restricted to doing it. A similar idea could apply to other situations besides drinking.